Monday, September 15, 2014

Tomato-Basil Mac & Cheese

We enjoyed a nice weekend, it always goes by too fast, that's for sure. We had very nice fall like weather, cool mornings but by afternoon the sun was shining. It's been forever since we'd been able to have a bon fire, so that's what our Saturday night consisted of. It was a little chilly but the fire sure warmed us all up. Of course we had to indulge in a little s'more action too.

These unusual chilly evenings have had us busy in the garden lately. Gathering as much as we can and covering plants to protect them from potential frost. I had quite a few cherry tomatoes sitting in a bowl on the counter, along with some fresh basil from our farm share. I incorporated the two into this awesome macaroni and cheese dish. Let's just say, all bowls were empty by the end of dinner time last night.

I'm not a huge macaroni and cheese fan, but I'll eat it on occasion. The hubby on the other hand, loves it. I was happy to see him eat it up, as well as the kids. In fact our oldest daughter took the last little bit leftover for lunch today and said it was still just as good. I loved the addition of fresh summer flavors in this, in fact I think a little crumbled bacon on top might even be a great topping for next time.

You'll also love how fast this dish comes together. It's not something you have to save for the weekends when we typically have more time to devote to our meals. Enjoy it as a meatless main dish or as side dish like we did.

Tomato-Basil Mac & Cheese

4 cups cooked pasta {I used penne}
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp flour
1-3/4 cup milk
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
small handful fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tbsp panko crumbs
sprinkling of red pepper flakes

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in minced garlic and let cook for about one minute, until fragrant. Whisk in flour. Add in milk, salt and pepper, whisking well until combined. Let cook for a few minutes, until simmering and let thicken just a bit. Once thickened, remove from heat and stir in both cheeses.

Add in cooked pasta and mix together. Then stir in tomatoes and basil. Divide mixture between three small oven safe dishes or an 8x8-inch pan. Sprinkle each dish with one tbsp of panko crumbs, or if using one pan then sprinkle all three tbsp over top. Add desired amount of red pepper flakes on top of panko crumbs.

Broil in oven for about 3 minutes to brown panko crumbs. Remove from oven and enjoy!

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